Today marks the colorful Hindu festival of Holi, or as it is known in Indian diaspora communities in South America and the Caribbean, Phagwah. One of the most vibrant places to celebrate the holiday outside of Indian is actually in Queens, NYC, which is home to Hindu diaspora communities from around the world including Trinidad and Guyana. The New York Times covered the Queens Holi festivities in detail in 2011, along with a photo album. The NYT also has a great Caribbean recipe for the holiday, Gogola banana fritters.
Tag Archives: India
Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos are right around the corner – but so is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which falls on October 30 this year. Diwali is absolutely awash with sweet treats (some of which we have covered before), collectively called Mithai, and the proper Diwali table is full with as many sweet treats as possible. One popular genre of Indian sweets is called laddoo/laddu, which are basically round truffles that come in a myriad of flavors. Today, I’m going to be sharing one of our favorite and simplest recipes for coconut laddo, which are super easy to make. Check out recipes from Veg recipes of India, Cooking and Me and Rak’s Kitchen (seen below). These laddoos also remind us of Brazilian beijinhos, one of the most popular sweets across the country. Seems like condensed milk and coconut have fans on pretty much every corner of the earth!
We think we have found the best Indian food in NYC – in the basement of a Hindu temple. The Ganesh Temple Canteen (45-57 Bowne St, Flushing, NY 11355) is tucked into a quiet, residential neighborhood of Queens – you wouldn’t know the temple was there until you drive right up to it and see the ornate architecture up close. In order to reach the canteen, you descend the stairs to the basement, where you are greeted with a vast, simple cafeteria, complete with linoleum floor and buffet line. But don’t let the humble presentation fool you! At almost any part of the day, the cafeteria will be packed with worshipers and non-affiliated neighborhood folks alike. The canteen has been churning out food since 1998, and attracts crowds a all times, even at breakfast.
The focus of the canteen is vegetarian South Indian dishes, in particular: dosas. The vast range of dosas, thin wheat crepes, come with a variety of fillings from spicy potatoes, to lentils and chilis, to paneer cheese. And you’ll be pretty pleased about the prices, too (nothing is over $7). You wait in line to place your order, and while in line you can check out at the menu on a suspended flat-screen TV and consult with the dosa experts in line. There are also a range of appetizers like iddli (steamed rice cake) and vada (savory fried dough) to go with your dosas, as well as a selection of sweets and mango lassis. There are also a few additional temptations while waiting: little boxes of sweet and savory snacks for sale to take away. Looking around the room, you will notice some hints that the restaurant is attached to a Hindu temple, including the prominent statue of Ganesha.
We ordered a side of tamarind rice, two masala dosas and a Pondicherry dosa. After no more than 10 minutes, our food came out, fresh off the griddle. Dosas are usually pretty generous in size, and these were no exception. The dosas themselves were butter and flaky, and were completely packed with delicious vegetarian fillings. The potato filling of the masala dosas were perfectly spiced – just the right amount of heat. The Pondicherry dosa was also filled with green chilis and onions, which added an extra kick. We also appreciated the soupy veggie sambar and coconut-yogurt sauce that came alongside. We washed everything down with a mango lassi (which is a bargain at $2 – you may want a second one).The Ganesh Temple Canteen may be a little out of the way for most New York visitors, but it is definitely worth the trip for the great hospitality and the tasty dosas. This is some of the best Indian food we have ever had, and definitely the best we have had in NYC. Plus, you’ll get a huge amount of food for the price! If you stop by, don’t forget to indulge in a mango lassi (or two).
If you are familiar with Indian and Pakistani snack foods, chances are you are familiar with chaat! Chaat is a general term that encompasses dozens of varieties of savory snacks, often eaten as street food in India and Pakistan or in snack bars. Our picture of chaat has previously been heavy fried potatoes, breads, chickpeas or samosas, but did you know that chaat could be sweet and unfried? Enter fruit chaat, an Indian take on fruit salad, with chopped mixed fruits, topped with black salt and the essential element – fruit chaat masala spice mix. Fruit chaat is a traditional starter dish on the Ramadan iftar table, the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast, though it is good to eat anytime. With the heavily spiced, tangy flavors, fruit chaat reminded us of gazpacho, a spicy Mexican fruit salad, a connection or friend Omnivorous Cravings made back in 2015! The combo of fruits an be pretty much anything you want like bananas, oranges, apples, mango, grapes, or whatever is in season. The fruit masala chaat blend varies across recipes, but includes some essential spices: ginger, cumin, coriander, black salt, chili pepper, amchoor (mango powder) and asafoetida. Here are is a recipe from Food 52, plus a few more recipes to make your own spice blend (or you could get a premade spice mix).
This fascinating Telegraph India article weaves the long and winding history of Chinese Chow Mein noodles in Calcutta (seen below), which was first popularized in Calcutta’s Chinatown and has now become one of the city’s most iconic and popular street foods. If you don’t have a trip to India in your future, here is a recipe for Indian-style chow mein.
When we lived on the North Side of Chicago one of our favorite specialty grocery stories was Patel Brothers on Devon Avenue (2610 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL). Devon Avenue, one of the most fascinating streets in Chicago, has large concentration of Indian and Pakistani shops and businesses (and at various other stretches is also home to Jewish and Slavic communities). For the Indian and Pakistani community, Patel Brothers served as the anchor grocery store in the neighborhood. You could find anything you wanted there, from frozen ready-made foods to bulk spices to obscure grains to fresh fruit to hundreds of varieties of packaged salty snacks (yum!). When we were in Jackson Heights in Queens several years ago, we came across another Patel Brothers and we realized that it was the same chain! Now in Cleveland, we are near yet another Patel brothers. Turns out that the Patel brothers we frequented in Chicago is the original, opened in 1974, by brothers Mafat and Tulasi Patel, who immigrated from the Indian state of Gujarat in 1968. The grocery store chain has since expanded into an empire of 52 company-owned stores, and into a line of foods that is sold elsewhere, Swad. It is interesting to learn that one of the strongest footholds of Indian food in the US originated in Chicago!
When we are out and about we tend to drop everything to try new foods, even if that potentially means having no idea what we are eating (actually, that is often the case). In the Supermarket the other week, we had that exact experience when M, on the spur of the moment. picked up a mustard yellow can of “Badam Drink,” a beverage that was a complete mystery. The can advertised “real bits of Badam,” and not knowing what that was, we were doubly perplexed. Thanks to some internet sleuthing, we come to find out that Badam is simply “almond” in Hindi, and this cold almond milk drink is a favorite for the hot days of Spring and Summer. Badam milk is made by soaking almonds in water or milk, blending and then adding the flavoring of saffron and cardamom. Now it wasn’t too hot in Chicago recently, but this was still quite refreshing, and would be a nice caffeine-free replacement for a chai tea latte.
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is right around the corner, which means it is time for Diwali sweets, or Mithai. The sweets served vary from region to region, and we have covered a few before on ETW (just a drop in the bucket), including ghugra and susiyam. However, we recently discovered a new Diwali specialty, Kaju Katli, a cashew fudge candy made with sugar and ghee (yes “Kaju” means cashew). M loves cashews, so this recipe seemed especially appropriate to try, and Kaju Katli seems pretty easy to make. Here’s a recipe from Padhu’s Kitchen and another from Rak’s Kitchen (which includes saffron). For extra flair, it is also sometimes decorated with silver leaf, vark (as below). In some ways, Kaju Katli even reminds us of one of our favorite Brazilian candies made from cashew and sugar, the cajuzinho!
2508 W Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
Indian food is certainly vegetarian, but things like ghee and paneer make it less friendly for vegans. However, Arya Bhavan is a perfect go-to restaurants for those who are vegan and want to indulge in some Indian food. We went with our cousin, a vegan as well as a big Indian food fan. The menu was quite extensive, and featured both North and South Indian favorites including a wide selection of naans, dosas, dals and paneers as well as some non-traditional salads. The menu could possibly be overwhelming, but the waitress/owner Kirti was more than happy to give recommendations. For those who really can’t decide, there is a vegan buffet on Friday nights, and throughout the weekend. Our vegan dining companion was especially excited about the vegan mango lassi, which was declared delicious.
We ordered three dishes and shared among ourselves. Of course, we also selected a garlic naan, which was quite tasty. For our first dish we tried something new, Northern Indian dumplings, Malai Kofta ($12) served with a cashew gravy, which had a nice kick to it. The second dish, Dal Bunzara ($12) was composed of sauteed lentils in a cumin, green tomato and onion sauce. We also tried one of our staples, Palak Paneer ($12) with vegan cheese and spinach. Our favorite dish was actually the one most unusual to us, the Malai Kofta dumplings, which had a great texture, and we sopped up the last of the sauce with our naan. The vegan paneer was a pretty good rendition, though we’d probably stick to the dairy version elsewhere.
Overall, the service was a little haphazard (ironically, they were in the process of hiring a new waitress while we were eating). However, we did not feel ignored. The waitress/owner/chef/jack-of-all-trades Chef Kirti, who waited on us was one of the most passionate owners we have ever come across, and she was fully committed to providing healthy, tasty foods for those with all sorts of dietary needs (perhaps a little too healthy…. since she warned us the barfi dessert was too fattening). It was refreshing to see someone so dedicated to her food mission!
For those with even more exacting food needs there is even a raw food buffet on Monday nights, and most dishes can also be made gluten-free. There is something for everyone at Arya Bhavan, from traditional dishes to regional specialties, from dishes that are naturally veggie-only to ones that have been created specifically for vegan palates. We were happy to find a place the pleases vegans and omnivores alike!
Diwali, the Hindu “festival of lights” is upon us, and that means a vast supply of excellent food. We talked a little bit about the Diwali snacks, known as Mithai, before. Mithai vary widely from region to region and it is near impossible to cover them all. This year we decided to dig a little deeper into regional specialties, like fov/poha from Goa, a rice-based dish (5 more recipes here), Ghughra, filled turnovers from Gujarat, and Susiyam, fried sweet chickpea fritters from Tamil Nadu. The recipe site Barwachi has an extensive list of regional Indian Diwali recipes, including many dishes we never have heard of before.
Feijoada, a meat and bean stew of Portuguese origin, is extremely popular in Brazil, which we experienced while we were there. Everyone has a recipe, and making feijoada turns into a weekend event/party on nearly every corner. However, Brazil is not the only place that feijoada has taken hold – it also enjoys some popularity Goa, India. Goa, a region in Western India, was once a Portuguese colony (until 1961, even), which explains the heavy Portuguese influence on the local cuisine. However, feijoada from Goa is a little different in that it may include pork (rather than the typical beef in Portuuese or Brazilian versions), or is vegetarian. Goan Food Recipes has a version with pork, and My Diverse Kitchen has a recipe for vegetarian Goan feijoada.
Centro Commerical Mouraria
We love cooking with Indian flavors back in Chicago, but we figured that we would not be able to find Indian spices in Lisbon – but we were wrong! Right in the heart of Lisbon, and accessible from the Martim Moniz metro stop is the Popat Store, a small Indian grocery store which will warm the hearts of any Indian food lover. You don’t even need to exit the metro station to find Popat Store, just follow the signs in the labyrinthine Martim Metro stop to the Centro Commerical Mouraria – which is even a more labyrinthine shopping mall of international delights.
Popat store caters to those who want to cook from scratch, as well as those who would reheat frozen samosas. There are pre-packaged spice blends starting from just one euro, including a masala spice blend and tandoori spice rub. You can get bottled sauces for a few euros more, as well as coconut milk and other canned goods imported from India. For those wanting to make their own blend, you can also find fresh lemongrass, and every kind of spice in dried or powdered form. In addition, you can find over a dozen varieties of rice and all different kinds of grain in bulk.
There is also a small fresh market in the front of the store with okra, tomatoes, Piri Piri and Habanero peppers. The coup d’etat however was that they had peanut butter! Peanut butter is particularly rare in Europe, and if you find any it is bound to come in a very small jar and to be particularly expensive. However, Popat Store’s variety was a huge jar of delicious natural peanut butter (which appeared to be imported from Amsterdam) for less than 3€. We bought some garlic naan, tandoori spice mix and peanut butter. After a visit to Popat Store, our kitchen was really starting to feel like home.
Happy Diwali! It is the first day of the Hindu Festival of Lights today, which mean a time for family, togetherness, celebration, and naturally lots and lots of delicious foods. Foods eaten on Diwali vary widely by location and family, however it is generally agreed that there should be a large assortment of sweet treats. Of course, we are absolutely for any excuse to put out a huge dessert spread. As part of the Diwali celebration, street fairs, or melas, are often set up, providing entertainment and selling any manner of delicious foods. The little sweets are known as mithai, and are:
“ a cross between snack, dessert and confectionery. If there’s one thing that captures the Indian culinary psyche, it’s mithai. Little morsels are nibbled throughout the day, on their own, with masala chai or as part of a meal alongside savoury items.”
If you are not near a Diwali market, or would simply like to prepare some mithai of your own, the Guardian has a slideshow of some of the most quintessential Diwali sweets to inspire you. For those looking to make their own mithai, I Love India, SpicyTasty, Rak’s Kitchen and Divya’s Cookbook have recipes for favorites like gulab jamun, laddu, barfi and jalebi. For a non-traditional take, why not make some truffles inspired by the traditional barfi sweets.
Until about a week ago, Team GB had all but struck-out in the medal department at their home Olympics. Fast forward half a fortnight, and their 16 golds places them third on the overall list, as well as garnering them today’s national dish highlight at ETW – chicken tikka masala. Wikipedia offers this succinct definition: “Chicken tikka masala is chicken tikka, chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, [and] served in a masala (‘mixture of spices’) sauce.” The recipes variations are as wide-ranging as its origin histories, but nothing obscures its popularity. Recently Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, declared chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of the United Kingdom. Today, 1 in 7 of all curries sold in Britain are tikka masala, and it is the most popular restaurant dish in the country. But while tikka masala is unquestionably popular in Britain, and has been declared the national dish, its transnational origins reveal a fascinatingly complex and controversial history.
When we discovered Eggettes, a Hong Kong sweet we profiled previously, little did we know that there were similar popover confections present around the world (though we should have guessed). Ranging from India to Denmark, all of these treats are made in special pans with round indentations (as can be seen above). First up are poffertjes, mini-pancakes made with buckwheat flour that originated in the Netherlands in the 15th century. Kitchen butterfly has a recipe for poffertjes from Dutch Cooking Today (Kook ook Holland).
Similar to poffertjes are ebelskivers / abelskivers / aebelskivers from Denmark, not surprising, given the proximity of the two countries. The recipes are quite similar, but an aebelskiver (or their pan, rather) is larger. For those ready to commit to the recipes: Fante’s Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia has both poffertje and aebelskiver pans, as does William-Sonoma. Also falling into this small-popover milieu are Paniyaram (seen above), an Indian snack that can be made sweet or savory. We think this serves as evidence that some things – like bite-sized carb-y snacks – are universal.
R. São João da Mata 41,
“Dois pessoas, por favor.” When Orlando, the 34-year owner of Zuari, one of Lisbon’s most acclaimed Goan restaurants, heard our request for a two-person lunch seating, he seemed confused. He looked around the completely empty restaurant, and an immediately frustrated look came over his face. “It’s all full!” We walked past empty table after empty table, as he directed us to a tiny little table in front of a door leading to the kitchen. Apparently the only available seating? Who else was there – ghosts? At noon on a Thursday?
No matter – we had seats, and we wanted to eat. Lisbon is probably one of the best locations for Goan food outside of the former Portuguese colony turned Indian state, but as with any establishment, we were worried that the owners had changed the dishes to conform to more sensitive, even muted, Portuguese tastes. Luckily, we were wrong. For starters, the menu was encouraging: entirely in Portuguese. Few tourists coming this way, apparently – far from the city center and the metro, that’s usually a good sign. Orlando patiently explained the menu to us, as we had never heard of “Sarapatel” before. He spoke quickly, and M caught words like carne (meat) and pedacos (pieces) of linga (tongue) and a quick statement that “tudo e bom” – it’s all very good. He then scurried away, finally explaining the reason he seemed so frazzled: a big party was going to start there in about twenty minutes.
In we put the order: a bottle of water, two sides of white rice. For a starter we went with the obligatory Apas, a type of bread unique to Goan cuisine ( €0,75). It has a texture similar to a very thin version of naan, and a similar flavor, yet somehow manages to remain thick and hearty. L tried to Chacuti de Galinha (€7,00), a type of chicken curry with coconut milk and “spices.” A few taste tests later, and we could detect mint, cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper. A slight spicy kick with a fantastic flavor profile, and three pieces of chicken – the real stuff, still on the bone – was more than expected. M went with the Sarapatel (€7,00), a mix of diced and pulled pork and tongue, simmered in a spicy – very spicy – and flavorful sweet tomato-based sauce. The texture and taste reminded us of a very spicy version of Carolina barbecue pulled pork. Regular readers of the blog will know how we feel about that! Plus, the spice level was one of the few dishes ever to satisfy M’s Scoville scale requirement, and he didn’t even have to make a special request!
The only disappointment of the day was that Zuari was out of their famous mango ice cream, due to the party preparations. We would have liked to try it, but the unexpectedly complex flavors in our dishes, combined with the great price – €20,00 for the whole meal – made this easily our best meal in Lisbon thus far.
We are totally into Indian Buffets and long story short: this is the Best Indian Buffet in Madison! Yes we are bolding it. We have been there several times, and are never disappointed in terms of quality or selection. The price of $9.95 for the lunch buffett ain’t bad either.
The buffet is tucked away in a back room of a pretty standard, if expansive (in a banquet-hall sort of way), Indian restaurant. The last time we were there the buffet had:
- Palak Pakora – fried spinach and onion
- Tandoori Chicken
- Garlic Naan (Yes – we HATE when buffets charge extra for naan)
- Masala Dosa – Indian crepe
- Iddli – Tamil rice dumplings
- Sambaar – Tamarind vegetable stew
- Aloo Gobi – Spiced potatoes and cauliflour
- Palak Paneer – Creamed spinach
- Lamb Curry
- Salad bar as well as soup
- Dessert Selection: sorbets and gulab jamun
And of course we had a Mango Lassi to wash it all down.
We love tiffin boxes. In Britain and India a “tiffin” refers to a light lunch or a snack. Today in Southern India, “tiffin” it refers mostly to smaller snacks like dosas or idli. Traditionally, tiffins were carried in tiffin boxes or dabbas, compartmentalized steel carriers that locked together. Today in Mumbai there is even a complicated system involving a delivery service of tiffin boxes from the homes of workers to their office.
Like bento boxes, Tiffins are an awesome way to pack an eco-friendly lunch. If you are in the market for a tiffin box, you can find some great styles online at Amazon, UncommonGoods and Design Within Reach. Happy Tiffin even has colorful models.